Real Kashmir FC seems to destined to forever be battling a lot more than just opponents on the field. For a club born in 2016 to try and heal the scars of the massive floods in the state, it has been an achievement to reach the top tier of the I-League in just two years. The ongoing situation in the valley has not made things easier but the club insists things are as good or bad as anywhere else.
In an exclusive interview with Sportstar , co-owner of the club Sandeep Chhattoo spoke about the club’s ambitions, its journey so far and the pride in its achievements.
The club is just three seasons old and it has only gotten complicated for you over this period…
It’s been an amazing journey. I am grateful to David (coach Robertson) for his belief in the ownership that he is in a safe place called Kashmir, he loves it. Adidas for their support, which adds to the passion. The team has been performing and that is the most important thing when you set up a team.
When we started the team in 2016, it was not for being part of the I-League or anything. It was just about doing something for the community and an outlet for the youth. We are two friends who started this club and we have reached here. We are up against corporates, club with 100 years of history. It transformed into something bigger.
How prepared are you for the home games given the situation back home?
We are as prepared as any other state or city. We have the same assurances that any government gives to any club. We are absolutely confident of hosting our home games. And we expect more people turn up, not less.
What if you are forced to play home matches elsewhere? It will only add to the costs.
It’s not just cost. Who would want to play home games away? If we cannot play on our own TRC Ground and home fans cannot see us play, the whole essence is lost. Things happen everywhere. If any state has a problem we should accept it, go there and play, like we have done. We expect the same from others also.
Last year when we went to the North-East, there was a curfew for six days and everything was burning on the streets but we didn’t complain. Minerva didn’t come last year. What was the problem? We tweeted pictures of fans waiting for the visiting team. These arrangements are for the government to make. The situation is like anywhere else but someone bent on not coming can always find a reason. All these are mere excuses.
How do you see RKFC surviving in an environment where a lot of smaller clubs are shutting down due to financial constraints and the clash with the ISL?
We will come up with something. The positivity coming out of the club everyday is very important, it’s an unreal feeling. It’s the only hope for the youth in the state and we cannot let them down. Guys like Hammad and Danish are stars there, their faces on the hoardings. It means a lot.
It’s more than just a football club. We will probably never make money out of it. David is not here because of money. It’s passion that is driving all of us. We have achieved something beyond football – we have managed to get the people together.
When you see 20,000 young Kashmiris in the stands during a match, and policemen standing behind them clapping with them, being part of it – you do not imagine that in Kashmir. We have broken those barriers through football.
Maybe, I should start a few more business because everything I make now goes into the club!
There may not be any broadcast for I-League games, would that be a let down for those unable to the stadium?
We are not worried. We have an understanding with DD Kashir and they will be broadcasting all our matches. Last year also, all our matches were telecast on DD because Star refused. And if no one does we will set up our own local thing and telecast it, it doesn’t cost too much. But we will reach out.
What would be your message to other struggling grassroots clubs?
Never give up! No club should ever give up – beg, borrow or steal, you have to continue. If you have a dream and you have started something, doing it the right way, you cannot give up. It is a passion, not a business.
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